.Omicron

… To increase patients’ access to medicines by 45% in 2022

By Chioma Obinna

Pfizer Regional leaders in Africa and the Middle East region, AfME, have announced that its Omicron specific vaccine will be ready in less than two months even as it disclosed plans to deliver breakthrough medicines to more patients across the region by 45 per cent this year.

Announcing these and more at a virtual media roundtable, the leaders also restated commitments towards playing a leading role in the global fight against COVID-19.

Responding to questions, the Regional President of Pfizer, AfME, Patrick van der Loo said the company was concerned about having the most updated vaccines against all strains of COVID-19 virus.
“Pfizer discovered last year that Omicron was going to be one of the dominant strains. We have dedicated part of our manufacturing now to omicron specific vaccines which are already being tested. It is expected that in one or two months we will have the data available and it will now be up to individual governments whether they want the vaccines or Omicron Specific vaccine.”

He said the Pfizer vaccine has been substantiated to be effective with two doses against the virus. “With two doses you will get almost 91 percent protection or efficacy which means you will have 91 per cent chances of not being infected with the virus. However, we found that Omicron which is more stubborn, with our vaccine, you will get 70 percent efficacy or protection. But with the vaccines given to the majority of the population, we can attain Herd immunity.”

He urged the media to communicate the right messages and get the right information from the right persons as wrong information contributes to the vaccine hesitancy being witnessed in countries.

Continuing, he disclosed that Pfizer pledged to provide 2 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to low and middle-income countries in 2021 and 2022 – at least 1 billion doses each year.

“We have fulfilled this pledge for 2021 and as of February 6, 2022, we have delivered more than 1.1 billion doses to 101 low and middle-income countries. When it comes to our novel COVID-19 antiviral treatment (Paxlovid), we expect to produce 120 million treatment courses in 2022, depending on the global need. In the Middle East, Paxlovid is now available in many countries, and we are currently engaged in discussions with other local governments,” Van der Loo added.

Speaking further, he said the company is launching more than 50 products across AfME, to address unmet needs and critical public health challenges.

The roundtable also shed light on how Pfizer is driving health equity across the region through affordability programmes for those who cannot afford their medicines, including enrollment models and flexible payment options.

Van der Loo said: “As we continue to raise the bar within science and patient impact in the region, we are seeking even stronger collaborations with healthcare professionals, communities, and governments to ensure greater access to our breakthroughs.

“In 2021, we have reached more than 4.1 million patients across AfME and inspiring to increase patients’ access by more than 45 per cent in 2022.

“In addition to the 100 breakthroughs available in the region to support patients across six therapeutic areas – vaccines, oncology, inflammation and immunology, internal medicine, rare diseases, and anti-infectives and sterile injectables – we are planning to have over 50 product launches this year.”

Disclosing that last year they managed to support the lives of over 4,500 patients suffering from various oncology, inflammatory, and rare diseases through our 30 access programmes in 11 countries across the region, he said they are aspiring to launch more than 5 new programmes, in addition to expanding some of the current ones to include new treatments in 2022. “Our hope for this year is to support the lives of over 10,000 patients across AfME.”

Speaking, Vice President and Regional Medical Lead at Pfizer AfME, Yasser El Dershaby, noted that patients and innovations were the driving force behind all their actions.

Stating that in 2021 across AfME, they generated data in 44 publications, 20 non-interventional studies (NIS) and 18 clinical trials, he said this year, they are planning to bring more Phase I and II clinical trials in South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Gulf Countries, and develop several programmes to bolster research capabilities and develop the infrastructure.

“To date, Pfizer has invested $24.5 million, with an additional $33.8 million expected over the coming years to ramp up production.

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